Buhari and Trump: betwixt and between
I have been in the United States of America attending family events and attempting a vacation. Before I left Nigeria, I was really downcast with the turn of events in country, especially the show of shame happening in the political circles: rumours of planned decamping, mass decamping and some des-camping; threats of impeachment and attempted impeachments in the midst of worsening insecurity and growing poverty. Nigerian politicians seem to be taking the people for a ride. For me the political environment in the Country was unpleasant especially the high display of impunity and rascality displayed by the security agencies and naturally many People were blaming President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and his ruling APC Party for fouling the environment.
However, when I arrived the USA and turned on the TV and listened to what people were saying about President Donald Trump (PDT), I realized that the social and political environment in the USA was also agitated and for some very unpleasant, though for different reasons and circumstances. Just as many Nigerians were blaming PMB, so were many Americans that I spoke to or watched on TV pissed off with PDT. That got me thinking. Are there parallels, coincidences and differences between these two leaders who though are being heavily criticized by many today, also seem to enjoy cult following by group of others who seem unfazed by the criticisms.
First I noticed that both PMB and PDT are not mainstream politicians, though they have long nurtured the desire to rule. They are not chartered politicians like my sibling- Senator Mao. Yes they have had Long political affiliations but seem to lack nor motive political skills. Trump has been a real-estate businessman and TV Personality while Buhari has been essentially a Soldier. Even in their political affiliations, they have moved around. PDT was Democrat at some point (up till 1987, 2001-2009), Reform Party ( 1999-2001), Independent ( 2011-2012) and Republican (1987-1999, 2009-2011, 2012-Present). He also had made some attempts to join the Presidential race at three previous times and actually went through Reform Party Primaries before dropping out and then finally making the bold and audacious bid in 2016 that brought him to the Presidency. PMB we know seized power through a military coup in December 1983 and was in turn overthrown in August 1985. He contested three times under two political platforms (2003-ANPP, 2007-ANPP, 2011-CPC) before making the 4th and ultimate bid in 2015 on the APC platform that finally brought him to the Presidency.
Second, PDT is the oldest and wealthiest person to become President in America at age 70 just as PMB is the oldest person to become Nigeria’s Civilian President at age 73. PMB was supported to become Nigerian President by Obama and he was the first African President to be invited to the White House by Trump. Third, Both PMB and PDP won elections to the presidency against the run of play- coming from opposition parties and were heavily de marketed because of their past records.
Fourth, Both are strong willed and profess populist, protectionist and nationalistic world views and currently have poor domestic ratings mostly for different reasons- PMB for poor security management, struggling and post-recession economy, one-sided anti-corruption fight and a rancorous political environment, while for PDT it is for his largely anti-American stand on many issues, his romance with Putin of Russia and the repudiation of global agreements- WTO, Paris climate agreements, Iran nuclear deal etc. He seems to be turning American values upside down, restricting freedom of speech and press freedom and currently has grave integrity challenges. Fifth, Both have scant respect for diversity. In PMB’s Security architecture leadership as in his discretionary appointments, he has ignored the South East Nigeria and has focused heavily around his catchment area. The gains made by Women in Jonathan’s era has been grossly eroded. Similarly, PDT has expressed racial preferences and in his White House, most of the faces are white and the colour and gender diversity built by Obama has been fully annihilated. PDT is accused of trying to restablish white supremacy while PMB is accused of trying to establish a Fulani Empire.
On the flip side, PDT is loquacious but PMB is taciturn though both have to be kept on point, to avoid accidental discharges, which happens more with PDT as he often feels obliged to comment on every issue from his twitter account. PDT is very active, pushing his agenda and fighting through several unpopular policies, executive orders and social commentary, but PMB is restrained and seems more strategic than tactical.
As it stands, both seem to be fighting battles for political survival. Both men are in their first terms and from all indications want to do second terms as allowed by their respective country constitutions. PDT is facing tough challenges. He is at logger heads with most of the international community, except perhaps Russia and Israel. He regards the European Union ( EU) as adversaries or even enemies. He is at war with closest Neighbours – Mexico and Canada and has problem with NATO Allies. He is currently undertaking an economic ware fare with China using unheard of tariff spikes with China struggling to retaliate. He has exacerbated the Middle East tensions with his unilateral recognition of Undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel aviv to Jerusalem. He has repudiated the Iran nuclear deal and is currently on a shouting match with Tehran, recently opening another shouting frontier with Turkey. The international community would wish for a change of leadership in America by 2020 or preferably earlier. Naturally they share similar views with the Democratic Party and now many conservative Republicans are even sharing this view. Last week President Jimmy Carter spoke, following earlier comments by George Bush and Ronald Reagan’s daughter and several other Leading Republicans like Senator John McCain. Even the intelligence community has joined in raising the red flag against PDT. Everybody is waiting for Special counsel, Robert Mueller’s report on Russia and related matters!
Fortunately, PMB does not seem to have much problem with the international community, though Nigeria is holding Africa back in many respects, more so now with its reluctance to sign the African Continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA) pact. He is widely respected abroad and has been made the anti-corruption champion by the African Union (AU). Recently he was the only head of State invited to speak at the international Court of Justice (ICC) event in the Haque. But PMB has plenty of issues domestically, the greatest of them being his patent inability to secure the lives of Nigerian civilians. Life has always been cheap in Nigeria since 1966, when the Military of which he was a key player turned Nigerians against themselves but in the last three years, life has become completely worthless in many parts of Nigeria. This coupled with the inability of his ruling party APC to either unite its members or cause the government to unite the people of Nigeria.
Many Nigerians say that the Country has never been as divided as it is today under PMB as ever it has been since the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970. Coincidentally Many Americans say that America has never been as divided as it is today under PDT, as ever it has been since the end of the American Civil war in 1865.
Would this be worthy legacies for PMB & PDT? I would rather not.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR
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